UN accuses rebels of breaking DRC ceasefire

Rebels in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have violated a fragile ceasefire and seized more territory, the United Nations said on Wednesday, as Kinshasa rejected India’s offer of more peacekeeping troops.

Rebels led by Tutsi ex-general Laurent Nkunda “have launched new military operations in the Kiwanja-Ishasa area, aggravating the humanitarian and security situation in Nord-Kivu” province, the United Nations mission in DRC, known as Monuc, said in a statement.

Fighting had occurred between Nkunda’s National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) and pro-government Mai-Mai militia east of Kiwanja, about 80km north of the provincial capital, Goma, Monuc said, adding that it amounted to a “ceasefire violation”.

Its spokesperson, Lieutenant Colonel Jean-Paul Dietrich, later said that the CNDP had seized the small town of Kinsharo, about 100km north of Goma.

Long-simmering tensions between the Kinshasa government and Nkunda spilled over into a new conflict in August, displacing about 250 000 people and creating a humanitarian disaster.

While the UN plans to send 3 000 more peacekeepers to DRC, the government told UN chief Ban Ki-moon in a letter that it refused to accept India’s offer to provide 1 500 more soldiers, government spokesperson Lambert Mende said, without giving a reason.

Diplomatic sources had told Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Tuesday that the letter to Ban did not mention India by name, but there was no doubt it was referring to the Indian contingent of Monuc, which is already the largest with about 4 400 men.

“In view of the numerous abuses of power carried out by certain troops within Monuc, the [Congolese] people would not understand if soldiers from the same country would be used to boost numbers within Monuc,” said the letter, which the sources read to AFP.

Indian peacekeepers have been accused of sexual abuse and Monuc admitted in August that some Indian troops could have been involved.

Monuc confirmed receipt of the Congolese government’s letter and said Ban would present the matter to the UN Security Council.

The Security Council has approved boosting the peacekeeping force, but is yet to decide which countries should supply troops and when.

UN peacekeepers have been criticised for failing to protect the population fleeing the fighting in Nord-Kivu.

A rebel spokesperson on Tuesday denied the CNDP was displacing people and claimed it was only carrying out “police” operations aimed at pro-government militia.

“There are not really clashes, but simple police operations,” said Bertrand Bisimwa. “They have not caused displacements among the population.”

But Monuc Wednesday condemned the CNDP actions and called on the rebels to refrain from “further aggravating the population’s suffering”.

The UN mission also denounced looting it said was carried out by Congolese army troops in the village of Bulotwa, north of Goma, and called for prosecuting those responsible.

Kinshasa also dismissed on Wednesday a Human Rights Watch report that accused the government of President Joseph Kabila of using “brutal repression” against suspected political opponents, killing about 500 people and detaining and torturing hundreds more.

“It is a politicised report, riddled with rough guesses,” said spokesperson Mende.—AFP

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